Driver detention is a major cause of concern because of the cascading bad effects that come from...

Driver detention is a major cause of concern because of the cascading bad effects that come from severe delays.

Photo via U.S. DOT

For the first time, detention/delay at customer facilities appeared on the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual Top 10 list of the Top Industry Issues, unveiled last month during ATA’s annual Management Conference and Exhibition.

Its debut at No. 4 on this year’s survey reflects growing concern over excessive delays that create cascading impacts for drivers’ hours-of-service compliance, compensation, and ability to find safe, available truck parking.

“The driver issues are pretty bad,” said James Reed, president and CEO of USA Truck, during a panel discussion on the survey. “We’ve all heard of situations where a driver is at a dock for six or eight hours, no restrooms, no break facilities, nowhere to park the truck when you run out of hours.”

Just over a month earlier, ATRI released its study of detention, finding that delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years, costing fleets and drivers time and productivity.

Between 2014 and 2018, drivers reported a 27% increase in delays of six or more hours. And there was nearly a 40% increase in drivers who reported that the majority of their appointments were delayed due to customer actions.

HDT Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge

HDT Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge

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ATRI found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention, such as facilities not increasing labor and dock capacity to match increased freight movement and truck activity.

However, anecdotal reports indicate that there has been some progress made in battling detention. 2018 was one of the best years ever for trucking, and tight capacity allowed many motor carriers to focus on “shippers of choice” — customers that among other things did not subject drivers to excessive detention.

Mandatory electronic logs are also believed to have helped in this effort, as the data gathered allows carriers to better prove detention claims, as well as put pressure on customers because drivers can no longer “fudge” their log books to cover up excessive wait times.

In addition, several companies are now compiling driver surveys of facilities where they pick up and deliver loads.

“We’re starting to get insight into how long the average wait and dwell time is by time of day, so we can coordinate our scheduling with those customers,” Reed said. “And I use that information in rate negotiations with customers. I will price lanes using that information.”

In fact, a majority of fleets responding to the ATRI detention survey reported they are charging shippers and receivers some sort of detention fee for delays over two hours, with a portion of the fees being paid to drivers. Detention fees ranged from $10 to $100 per hour, averaging out to $63.71 — although still below ATRI’s estimated $66.65 average marginal hourly cost for fleets to operate.

But now, proposed changes to hours of service rules could threaten the progress made in fighting driver detention.

One of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed changes would allow drivers to “pause” the 14-hour work day for an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes and up to three hours — provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would help drivers deal with factors beyond their control, such as waiting out congestion delays in big cities — or dealing with detention delays.

One of my trucker Facebook friends asked, “So, basically we can spend up to 17 hours at work instead of 14 to get paid for 11? We have made a lot of progress towards getting drivers paid for all of our time. This is a step backwards.”

I couldn’t say it any better.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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